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Play and inclusion

Flewitt, Rosie and Nind, Melanie and Theodorou, Fani (2014) Play and inclusion. In: Inclusive Education in the Early Years. Oxford University Press, Australia and New Zealand. ISBN 978-0-19-552412-3

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We begin this chapter on play and inclusion by outlining the premises that underpin our perspective and that have informed our research. Some of these points may seem obvious, but when the status of early childhood is combined with, for example, being disabled, the outcome can be that children are presumed to be vulnerable, needy and passive (Davis & Watson, 2002). They run the risk of being seen as there for us to manage and do interventions on. This is not our starting point. First, we see all young children as active meaning-makers, who use their personal and social resources to make sense of the world as they experience it. We can help children’s sense-making by enriching their personal and social resources through the play opportunities we provide. Children who experience disability also experience barriers to doing and being (see Thomas, 2004, and this volume). In our focus on their agency within the constraints that are acting on them we address these barriers. As we will illustrate, children’s abilities vary greatly according to the social and play opportunities they encounter and can be extended through the creative and inclusive environments which we can help to provide. Second, we recognise the potential to enhance children’s competence by identifying and building on their strengths, by joining forces with them, following their lead and in the process enable them to realise their own agency. We can think of this in terms of Goodley’s (2001) concept of distribution competence – our abilities lie not just in ourselves but among those who enable us. We view children’s play as empowering, in that it supports children’s agency to make choices, which in turn can improve their confidence, self-esteem and self-realisation. Lastly, we work on the premise that all modes of communication and interaction are valuable and important in children’s meaning-making and in the complex social and interpersonal processes of children and adults understanding each other. In addition to having some working assumptions about children, we have some working assumptions about play and inclusion and we make these explicit too. Young children are experts at play. It is through playful exploration and endeavour that children learn, and play-based learning is at the heart of early education (Booth, Ainscow and Kingston, 2006). It is through their playful engagements that children make sense of what they encounter, enabling them to feel good about it, know it, and begin to feel that they belong (Seach, 2007). To include children in play is to include them in the social worlds of their peers and their educational environments. It also enables them to view themselves as active learners and play partners. We want this chapter to be useful to anyone seeking to enable young children to participate in and benefit from play and inclusion. Therefore we seek to bring to life episodes of play and the role of practitioners in that play. As we do this we draw your attention to the subtle processes at work. We draw our examples largely from our own research in the south of England. This includes an ethnographic case study of two children with autism within inclusive nursery settings with rather different ethos and practices (Theodorou, 2010; Theodorou & Nind, 2010) focusing on Vicky and Forest Nursery (pseudonyms); an ethnographic study of the social experiences of four-year-olds with intellectual impairment negotiating different settings (Flewitt, Nind and Payler, 2009; Nind, Flewitt & Payler, 2010) focusing on Mandy (pseudonym) and an action research study involving collaborative efforts to enhance the learning environment of a large early years unit Honilands in an area of deprivation (Nind, 2003).

Item Type: Book Section
Controlled Keywords: play, inclusion, supporting play, active meaning making, barriers to learning, disability, Learning, Health and wellbeing, Arts and Humanities(all)
Depositing User: Atira Pure
Date Deposited: 18 Dec 2014 14:02
Last Modified: 29 Jan 2015 09:57
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